Nine promises Mike Ashley has made to workers at Sports Direct

Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley faces questions at a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, June 7. (Image source: Parliamentlive.tv).
Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley faces questions at a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, June 7. (Image source: Parliamentlive.tv).

At a grilling by MPs in Westminster yesterday, billionaire Mike Ashley made numerous admissions concerning working conditions at his company's Shirebrook centre.

There were also a number of points he said were either being sorted, will be sorted in the future, are the subject of review, or are 'unacceptable' and should be sorted.

In fact the boss, who also owns Newcastle United, said he vowed to implement a number of changes to working practices within 90 days, promising to write to MPs if the time frame needs to be extended.

We want you to know what they are, because we intend to hold him to his word over the coming months.

All staff will be paid above minimum wage.

Mike said changes are already in place for permanent warehouse workers, of which there are 200, who have been given a 20p statutory pay rise, and his review has not yet reached zero-hours workers.

Incidentally it was also revealed yesterday that HMRC are investigating the company over pay.

Fines for lateness will be reduced.

A current system of docking wages by 15 minutes of pay if a worker is one minute late has been changed to five minutes, said Mike. We don't know if this means workers will now have five minutes grace period, or they'll only lose five minutes pay if they're a minute late - but we'd like to find out. We've asked. Let us know if you know the answer.

Issues over long security checks will be solved.

When asked if the inherent issues of 'bottlenecks' which delay Shirebrook workers as they come and go from work, Mike Ashley said this has been the focus of a review and is being sorted out. MP Iain Wright asked: "Have you now addressed the issue of bottlenecks due to searches?"

He said: "The process is in place so that genuinely shouldn't happen. You should be finishing your shift and walk through."

More workers will be given permanent contracts.

Only a few hundred Sports Direct employees locally have proper employment contracts while some 3,000 are on zero-hours contracts or other similar flexible terms of employment. Mike said this was 'unacceptable' and the balance needed to change and some staff should be transferred to full-time contracts.

The strike system is too tight.

A curiously sports based system of 'six strikes and you're out' means that Shirebrook workers get a black mark for certain offences at work - such as being late, taking a water break, giving birth in the toilets, and wearing branded underwear. Mike suggested he might impose a new system to give workers more leeway. He said: "You've got to have some kind of system. Call it 26 strikes." Unite says he's missing the point, and there should be a formal disciplinary system in place.

Workplace sexism and sexual harassment is over.

Following allegations of serious sexual harassment from some predatory managers, Mike was asked if he was going to deal with sexual harassment. He called the managers 'repugnant and disgusting and said they would be 'dealt with'. He added: "Sports Direct has to pull its socks up - simple as that, fellas. Not just fellas. Girls. Sorry."

From now on, workers can call an ambulance if they're giving birth.

Mike actually played down the revelations of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request which found there were 76 ambulances called to the Shirebrook campus over the space of two years. He said staff may have been 'hasty' in making some calls. Calls, which could have spared a mother from going into labour at work, and could have spared a man paralysis due to a blood clot. Nevertheless, he agreed that workers shouldn't live in fear of reprisals in genuine emergencies.